On the front lines of some of the deadliest fires raging in California, professional firefighters are working alongside prison inmates with one key difference: pay.
Cal Fire firefighters make at least $10.50 an hour, according to the agency, and inmates make only $2 a day plus $1 an hour.
All the attention on the wildfires over the past two weeks has begun to draw attention to a prison program in California that, according to state corrections spokesman Bill Sessa, can reduce state firefighting costs up to $100 million a year.
The number of inmates fighting fires varies but with 19 fires burning simultaneously at one point, KQED reported that there are about 3,800 state prison inmates who are minimum-custody inmates deemed a low safety risk fighting fires. That’s about 7 percent of the 9,500 firefighters working those fires.